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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Life Shifting and Time Shifting



I'm online this morning reading and organizing things in my Google reader and David Warlick's post "Is Pedagogy Getting in the Way of Learning?" came through.

In this post, he goes through a day of learning from many places around the world and outlines his thoughts on the evolution of learning via networks. David says:

"Our efforts should not be to integrate technology into the classroom, but to define and facilitate a new platform on which the classroom operates. When the platform is confined by classroom walls, and learning experiences spring from static textbooks and labored-over white boards, and the learning is highly prescribed, then pedagogy is required.

However, if the platform is a node on the global network; with text, audio, and video links to other uncountable nodes on the network; and the connections are real time and clickable, and tools are available to work and employ the content that flows through those connections; then the learning happens because learners have experienced personal connections — and they want to maintain those connections by feeding back their own value."

While from my experience with Flat Classroom and Horizon, I've found that these networks and nodes are incredibly important for learning, I disagree that learning just "happens" at least in today's collaboratively networked environment.

Students often take the path of least resistance and although I find that 20-30% of students take to global collaboration well, the other 70-80% need a little help. If you'll read the reflections on the flat classroom ning, you'll see that many of the students STRUGGLED with the asynchronous part of the project.

However, this could largely be because the students were instructed to collaborate with certain students. Could we reach critical mass enough so that WHEN students are online they may collaborate with the other students who are online? Are we willing to do that? CAn we create massive networks of interconnected classrooms and students to allow that to happen... or should we use the platforms that are already there.

We are experiencing learning because of our networks -- twitters, RSS readers, etc. The challenge I believe will be to effectively create networks that are easy to manage, self regulating, and of the highest professional standards to make it move towards what David is advocating.

The project where we had students exchange Skype names was a great thing, and yet we are linking students directly. We pulled back a little and had them use the Ning, or social network, which students loved, however, we were missing an easy way to collaborate synchronously. It will be a hybrid of the two and it makes people nervous when thinking about giving students 24/7 access to projects... I mean how do you regulate them at home?

School is evolving... access is becoming ubiquitous, and as with my last post and the push for a $75 laptop, technology is becoming affordable. We must set up the infrastructure today that we may progress towards global schoolhouses of learning... connecting, sharing, while not being communists and allowing freedom of thought. All the while we must remember the ethics and good behavior that must accompany all we do as educators.

Move forward... time for schools to shift too!

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